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What to see at the film festival: here are a few early picks

VIFF starts today. The Vancouver International Film Festival is showing over 300 films this year. Even though many of those are shorts there’s no way anybody can catch all or even most of them. Some people try though, so be tolerant if somebody you know is always out from now til Oct 13.

This is the best showcase of foreign and Canadian films we get all year. It shows up the fare at the Cineplex.

I’ve got a few films to recommend today, some more tomorrow and will add others every three or four days. Lincoln Kaye will have some too, especially from the many Asian films playing.

The opener today is Meditation Park (also playing Sat and Wed) Mina Shum’s return to the subject of her celebrated Double Happiness, family and tradition in Vancouver’s Chinese community. There’s the added spice of infidelity this time. Festival opened with a Canadian film last year too, to great success.

These films, which I have seen, include new work by Jane Campion, a close up of a mysterious painting, two fascinating biographies and a harrowing drama from the land of Kurds and ISIS.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story: 4 stars

Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of our Lives:  3 ½

Bosch: The Garden of Dreams:  4

Reseba: The Dark Wind:  3 ½

Top of the Lake: China Girl:  3

 

BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY: This documentary tells a most incredible story. It turns out that the woman who used to be called the most beautiful on earth was also one of the brainiest. And as one voice in the film says “She created her own reality”.

 

Hedy Lamarr was a big star in Hollywood in the 1940s, married six times, and bedded the famous, including JFK. But she also gave Howard Hughes airplane design tips, developed Aspen as a ski destination and invented a communications encryption method that survives to this day in WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. Amazing, for a girl from Vienna, where she made a notorious film in which she appeared nude and simulated an orgasm, was denounced by the Pope and connived her way to Hollywood fame. Oh, and she lost all her money, got addicted to drugs, had some of the worst plastic surgery you’ll ever see but lived to an apparently cheerful old age. She told her story only once, in a long telephone conversation that was recorded, misplaced and is now heard throughout this film. Her children also talk and movie clips illustrate. Terrific stuff. (Tonight, and Oct 8 and 11) 4 out of 5

CLIVE DAVIS:  THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES: That subtitle couldn’t possibly be any more true. Think of these names: Santana, Billy Joel, Janis Joplin, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Maroon 5, Alicia Keys, The Notorious B.I.G., Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson. They’re all artists who Davis discovered or worked with. There are many more: Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Santana again, and some not as cool, Kenny G, Barry Manilow and Air Supply. They all sold millions of records under his guidance and as this film shows he’s had an enormous influence on our popular culture.

 

He has run several record companies, was fired from two and each time managed to rebound by founding others. Many artists and observers like Paul Simon, David Foster, Simon Cowell and “Puff” Daddy attest to his brilliance. He understands what the public wants and delivers it to them. He has a talent for picking hits. He talks extensively in the film about his career but not so much about a legal issue, his two marriages or his public coming out as a bisexual. He does insist though that he never mixed business and pleasure at work. The film is crammed with information and music. By my rough count of the end list, excerpts from 110 songs are heard. How’s that for a track record? (Tonight and Saturday) 3 ½ out of 5 

More in New Movies

Deep Throat vs Nixon, Jackie Chan vs the IRA and Olivia Cooke super in a serial killer tale from Victorian times

Also a suspense-cum-horror movie entertains by copying Groundhog Day

Borg vs McEnroe, one of two real-life male contests in today’s VIFF picks

The other shows Engels prodding Marx to get more revolutionary. Plus, ratings of two other films.

Five more films worth catching at VIFF

Including an early award winner, a wildly funny party, a sad Swedish parallel to our treatment of indigenous people and the star architect who designed our latest hi-rise
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